I'm exploring the artwork of Pacific Northwest artist Christiana Hedlund today. I really enjoyed learning about Christiana's international travels in pursuit of advanced painting training. What interesting experiences! Read on to see how these travels are represented in Christiana's works.
Jacquin: How does your local art scene in the Pacific Northwest inspire you? Do you have a community of artists locally that encourage and inspire you? What are your favorite sources for creative inspiration locally?
Christiana: I’ve found the NW has a really lovely community of artists that are diverse and open to sharing and collaborating. I went to art school here so I have many artist friends and mentors that are inspiring and encouraging me right in my own backyard. Here are some of my favorite sources for creative inspiration are:
- The gallery: Nationale
- The artist: Elizabeth Malaska
- The artist: Samantha Wall
- The artist: Michelle Ross
- The organization: Signal Fire
Jacquin: What inspired you to pursue art full time?
Christiana: I think pursuing art full time is my ultimate goal. Included in that goal is to eventually live out in the country, with a pack of dogs, a garden, and an art studio with north facing sky lights and infinite time to make art. But the truth is for most artists, myself included, is that making art full time isn’t really an option when you have to make a living too. So, I do my best to create as often as I can. I’m committed to making art forever because being creative is necessary for me to stay balanced, happy, and curious.
Jacquin: What was the best thing about studying in France at the Studio Escalier? How was this educational experience different from your training in the United States? Is the process for teaching and developing one's artistry any different in France in your opinion?
Christiana: I’ve studied intensively with my teachers in France off and on for three years. Both in Paris and at their school in the countryside of the Loire Valley. The experience of studying 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, from life is the most intensive way of educating myself I’ve ever experienced. The atelier (classical drawing/painting workshop) system is about diving fully into the study of life/ representational art- its intense, meditative, and reflective. Its not for everyone but I really thrive off of that kind of environment. My teachers are dedicated to their craft and exude so much knowledge and care in their presentation of concepts and techniques. The knowledge they've shared with me truly is a gift.
The contemporary art education I’ve had in the U.S. is much more of an expansive learning environment. Nothing is gone into deeply like in an atelier. It’s more akin to taking a more broad survey of art and relationship to it. You’re constantly introduced to new artists, new techniques, new trends, new teachers, and constantly have to meet deadlines and have your work critiqued. Both styles of learning have their benefits and their drawbacks. To be more symbolic- contemporary art school is looking outward and an atelier is like going deeply inward.
Untangle, 2014, Watercolor and gauche on paper, 28" x20"
Jacquin: Tell us about your process when painting. What is your average day like?
Christiana: I usually start my day rising with the sun, doing some cuddling with my dog, and then having some coffee with my partner. I’ll then spend some time at my desk writing in my journal. Beginning with writing helps me sort out my dreams from the prior evening, helps me clarify whats happening with me internally/subconsciously, and gets me inspired for new ideas to paint.
Lately, I’ve been exploring more abstract ways of working and my process is very different than if I’m working realistically. Both methods of painting require me to be as present as possible. When I work from life I’m trying to absorb the essence of my sitter and translate that into the work. So I have to remain pretty quiet but “on,” and empathetic and open to what she/he is exuding. When I work abstractly I try to not let my mind interfere too much with my decision making and instead do my best to trust my intuitive direction.
Jacquin: Oaxaca sounds like a unique and colorful place to study! How was your experience doing a residency in Oaxaca, Mexico instrumental in your career? What did you work on? How did you decide to travel to Oaxaca? What was your favorite thing about this residency?
Christiana: Oaxaca is a very, very special place to me. I first heard of Oaxaca when I was in middle school Spanish class. I still remember what the page of my textbook looked like introducing the region to us. I remember it saying that Oaxaca was the cultural epicenter of Mexico. I knew that I needed to go there and the word “Oaxaca” kind of haunted me for years until I finally went.
A couple years back I made my first visit to Oaxaca for a month. Then my next visit I stayed for four months. And I’m guessing on my next visit I’ll never come back ;). While I was there I worked on large scale water color portraits of the women of Oaxaca. It began with a portrait of a pregnant woman who later became my friend named Fatima. Then, it was Juanita an elderly Zapotec woman who sold beans and other dried goods at the local farmers markets outside of the city. And finally, of my friend Gloria a young woman who worked at the casa I stayed at.
I think my favorite thing about the residency was the experience of being so engaged and committed to the paintings I was making. I worked on those paintings for months and sometimes from dawn till dusk every day. Each of those paintings were real labors of love in an attempt to honor the women who sat for me.
Juanita, 2014, Watercolor on paper, 40" x 34"
It began with a portrait of a pregnant woman who later became my friend named Fatima. Then, it was Juanita an elderly Zapotec woman who sold beans and other dried goods at the local farmers markets outside of the city. And finally, of my friend Gloria a young woman who worked at the casa I stayed at.
Jacquin: What are you most looking forward to as you continue to grow as a professional artist? What goals do you have for yourself as you continue?
Christiana: I’m looking forward to the paintings that haven’t been made yet. I’m looking forward to the next painting I make that leaves me with endless questions. I’m looking forward to being an old lady and passing on the knowledge that making art has taught me. I think making that full circle from student to teacher would be really gratifying/ rewarding. I’m looking forward to connecting with new people aesthetically. My goals right now are to keep being open to experimentation and to be okay with the not knowing.
Artist Christiana Hedlund
You can find Christian Hedlund's latest works of art at her website here.